6 Risks Not Worth Taking as a Foreigner in China

6 Risks Not Worth Taking as a Foreigner in China
Aug 11, 2020 By Cian Dineen , eChinacities.com

China is a country full of opportunities for foreigners, but life here also comes with a number of risks for those not doing things by the book. Although it can be very tempting to cut corners, take shortcuts, or bend the rules, these actions can come back to haunt you in painful ways. Below are six risks not worth taking as a foreigner in China.

hospital patient
Source:  Sharon McCutcheon

Having the Wrong Visa

The first and biggest risk to avoid as a foreigner in China is having the wrong visa. It’s the foundation on which your life in the country is based, so if you’re not on the right visa, you run the risk of being deported at any moment.

Perhaps there’s a company that assures you it’s okay to work on a business visa. Maybe you want to start up your own company and think you can get by on a tourist visa while you’re getting off the ground. There was a time when you might have been able to get away with this kind of thing, but China is much stricter on visas now and the risk just isn’t worth taking. As we’ve seen time and time again, there’s a zero tolerance policy for foreigners breaking visa rules, even if they have no idea they’re in violation.

Even if you ride your luck and don’t get caught, you’re still creating a gap in your employment history. If you ever want to apply for a job that gives you a proper working visa, you have to walk a dangerous tightrope between sharing your work experience with your potential employer and revealing that you worked illegally in the past.

Not Paying Taxes

While having the right visa is vitally important, it’s only half the battle when it comes to making sure you’re following employment rules in China. It’s also important to make sure you’re paying the right taxes.

Some unscrupulous companies may ask you to compromise yourself by agreeing to avoid paying taxes, while others will just make out they have everything in hand. Either way, it’s ultimately up to you to make sure all your taxes are in order. You may feel like it’s the company’s responsibility, but if they mess anything up, it’s you who will bear the brunt of the consequences.

Although you might enjoy the extra bit of cash every month (let’s face it, nobody likes paying tax), we’ve seen more and more instances in recent years of the government cracking down on tax avoidance. If you get caught dodging the draft, you might find yourself with a huge tax bill, a fine, or worse.

Paying taxes isn’t all that bad, either. Foreigners in China who pay taxes can take advantage of certain government schemes, including social insurance and housing provident fund, which can be used to help pay for medical care and accommodation.

Not Having Health Insurance

If you’ve lived in China long enough, it’s likely you’ve seen cases where a foreigner has been hospitalized and the expat community is raising money for their treatment. It’s always sad to see, but it is even sadder when you consider that it could have been avoided with proper health insurance.

While there are some foreigners in China who may not be able to afford health insurance, there are many others who, if they budgeted responsibly, could have comprehensive coverage. Packages start from as little as RMB6,000 per year, a small price to pay for peace of mind if you have an accident or get sick. It certainly beats having medical bills of hundreds of thousands of yuan and relying on the charity of the community to pay them.

Flouting Driving Laws

There are numerous ways that foreigners take chances when driving in China. Be it driving after drinking, driving with a license that was obtained illegally, or driving without a license at all. This dangerous mindset seems to have developed from some foreigners seeing others doing the same and assuming that either the rules are not enforced or the penalties are not great.

Don’t be under any illusion. It may appear that driving laws in China aren’t as tough as in the West, but when authorities do enforce them, they come down hard. Driving when drunk or without a license won’t just lead to a fine, it could land you in prison, or see you deported. What’s more, if you accidentally damage property or, god forbid, hurt someone while breaking a driving law, you can expect very serious consequences indeed. Getting your moped properly registered and taking a taxi after drinking is hardly a hassle in comparison.

Being Careless or Combative Online

Sharing controversial opinions or getting into an argument online rarely ends well for foreigners in China. It can lead to hours of fighting with trolls and a whole lot of stress over something that usually doesn’t actually impact your real life.

Avoiding online confrontation is a good idea, no matter where in the world you are, but in China especially, one thoughtless social media post can escalate quickly. If you lose your cool online and say something that offends the Chinese people or the government, you may find yourself in trouble at work or even kicked out of the country. When back in your home country trying to rebuild your life, you can ask yourself if was it really worth it to win that argument with that person you’ve never met.

Opening Your Own Bar or Restaurant

This is one that doesn’t apply to many foreigners in China, although a lot of us have probably considered it at some point or another. Perhaps we’ve been sat in our local pub or restaurant, felt disappointed with the service or food and thought, “I could do this better.”

But before you start planning the menu and picking out your tables and chairs, pause for a minute and ask yourself the following: How many bars and restaurants have you seen open and close while youve lived in China? How many are busy every day of the week? How tired does the owner look and when was the last time he/she took a holiday?

Opening a bar or restaurant is a move some foreigners make after having lived in China for a while and made some money. With a less-than-perfect understanding of the local rules, demands, and customs, however, a lot live to regret it. Their bar or restaurant may have only lasted six months, but often the owners have aged decades and burned through their life savings.

What other risks are not worth taking for foreigners in China? Drop your suggestions on the comment box below.

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Keywords: Foreigner in China


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Since I don't live in China anymore, I only paid taxes for 2 years of 10 and never had health insurance. Open heart surgery is only 68 thousand rmb in Jinan, just have a nest egg and skip the insurance, my xrays were a 125 rmb and you get to take your medical records with you since you paid for them unlike most western countries.

Oct 05, 2020 04:09 Report Abuse



Dating or marrying Chinese people. Although the younger generation is becoming more open and free with western practices, the older generation is still bound by tradition and culture. You are not only marrying you love, you are marrying the family. That comes with responsibilities. Your in-laws have much to say about your life and your new family. In addition, if you marry, the foreigner is no longer allowed to work and have a work visa. There are many traps in dating a Chinese person. Be aware of them as you begin that journey.

Aug 13, 2020 12:11 Report Abuse




Nov 05, 2020 13:33 Report Abuse



True :(

Aug 11, 2020 23:57 Report Abuse